Lately, we’ve developed more interest in Japanese cuisine as many of it dishes are full of vegetables, whether they are steamed, pickled, raw or fried. Although fish is a staple in the Japanese diet, traditionally, there has been plenty to offer for vegetarian and vegan eaters. And with a love for soy, miso, noodles and rice it can’t be too hard to make a delicious Japanese, plant-based meal. Or is it?
These days, it is easier to avoid fish-based seasonings and sauces as brands such as Clearspring are offering strictly vegan products. Even vegan version of dashi - the cooking broth at the heart of Japanese cuisine infused with a distinct umami (savory) flavor - is easier to find.
Below is a quick list of 5 vegan Japanese staple ingredients that we use frequently in our cooking and a link to where to buy them.
A key ingredient of Japanese cooking, miso is a seasoning paste produced by fermenting soybeans and has been a plant-based B12 and protein-source for hundreds of years. There are numerous varieties of miso, from white, red to rich dark brown. The flavour of the miso depends on its fermentation time and the pulse/grain combination used. To reap the bacterial benefits, never cook miso or expose it to high heat as it kills off the bacteria. Simply stir into broth just before serving or add into a cooked sauce. Clearspring Organic Barley Miso is one of our favourites, and is rich and dark and makes an ideal savoury seasoning for soups, stews and sauces.
From a quick lunch to casual dinner, noodles are a cornerstone of Japanese cooking. As a general rule, udon noodles and soba noodles are vegan (made out of wheat or buckwheat flour), while ramen noodles are not. Always good to check animal ingredients. Why not remake a favorite takeaway dish at home and try adding different vegetables to make it colourful and delicious? When we think about our favourite ‘noodles’, we think of ‘sanuki’. Dried udon noodles are just as tasty as the fresh and made with only wheat flour and a little salt.
Shiitake mushrooms are widely used in Japanese cooking. Dried shiitakes have an intense earthy, umami flavor and are often used for making vegetarian dashi broth. Mushrooms are typically dried in order to preserve the flavour and aroma enjoyed in both Japanese and Western cuisine, as well as to keep them preserved. You can use shiitake in stir fries or soups and bring unique dose of Japanese deliciousness into your cooking!
Nori is the black dried seaweed sheets you would recognise from sushi rolls. Can also used shredded as a topping. Herb-like flakes of Clearspring Green Nori Sprinkle make an attractive topping for rice and noodles, soups and salads. Contains significantly high levels of minerals such as iodine, making it a nourishing as well as tasty condiment.
Tamari is a type of soy sauce often made with less or zero wheat and can be gluten-free. Tamari has a rounder, cleaner and more balanced flavor than other soy sauce and is less salty. It’s one of those ingredients that we keep as a constant in our pantry for marinades as well as salad dressing. Yamasa's Tamari soy sauce is completely free of gluten and wheat, allowing you to enjoy the umami-rich fermented soy bean taste in its purest form and discover the endless possibilities of tamari sauce.